Thought I’d put in little tidbits from my personal journal, which I hauled along with me to document almost every day of the past 3 weeks. Starting end of March, it was a whirlwind of everything. Of food, friends, laughter and love. Of things forgotten, of a life well-lived.
Café Camelot. Krakow, Poland. 6.47pm.
And now for more food, some sort of uplifting sustenance after a bit of sour at Auschwitz. I wonder at the inhumanity that still prevails in this century. Is mankind still reverting, backwarding?
Warsaw, Poland. 10.03am.
As I eat Green and Black’s 70% I am savouring all the elements of the world. I was stopped in my previous entry by all the starters and gorgeous food and faces. Right there. We have basically been eating, sleeping and walking non-stop, and now we will visit the Chopin Museum before trying out a Michelin Star restaurant at which 6 courses cost like 20?? Billie’s (was referring to Billie Holiday here) voice is calming, her swing’s injecting new life and groove into this plaintful morning. Time to rouse myself to the day and delight in its offerings.
ICE. Berlin is done! Now for the train to where half my heart is. I have just eaten the most delicious plum (bakewell) tart. This morning in our stunning, white-clad Airbnb, I awoke with a different conscience, to light that heightened my reason for existing. The plush, take-to-any-form German pillow absorbed all my shallow measurements of being human. Straight from the head. Maybe youth is to balance all this adventure with careful steps. Plus I need to be as neat as the dude who owns this place…
Firenze (Florence). 3.13pm.
Jesus this brass head is shaky. What does it want from me?
Outside there is a mad bustling, 15th century flourish adsorbed onto the refurbished Tuscan brown walls laden with history and emotion. Here there is such exuberance, passion and fire in every movement of wind. We are in search of culture, gelato (had the best one ever at Vivoli!!) and endless leg trails. I look quite the Asian stereotype. Between us there is a blank, poised honesty.
Schladming, Austria. 5 10pm.
I may not be skiing, but as I sit as this pink-clothed doll’s table with matching doll chairs and the laughter of young ones staining my mind, I realise this is living in a dream I wish not to wake up from, and I’ve never laughed or smiled this much in a long time.
And nowwww for some foodie time. Because this is an exciting one (as it always is, but a pumping heart and nostalgic fondness amps it up all the more, smoke trailing in the wind). Once I left that whole parade of Europe I missed it so much I had to whip out something that mildly reminded me of Germany, or Poland, maybe even of the airport, ha. Found some lebkuchen spice from Christmas last year, and no it’s not Christmas, but the attached, sweetly-stinging memory of dark, cold, sparkling nights with a hot mulled something got me going.
It’s hibernating in the oven as I speak. It’s bubbling with currants and Waitrose’s orange marmalade. Little stress, lots of goodness. Originally wanted to make eccles cake, but realised personal cravings for the simple stuff, like a simple, well-formed loaf cake, trumps any creativity attempt that does take more time but does not necessarily satisfy me physically or mentally so much more. It will be drizzled with something incredulously, deliciously regal.
This cake! Down below you will find what I truly think is the most perfect icing ratio! Really really. And I could go on about the ease– in my little book of recipes the directions bit for this has pretty much just one step. Dry and wet, mix mix mix, done, eat, savour, fridge, next day comes and the cycle starts again. This is a delicious, devious cycle. I am glad to say that I am ridiculously healthy outside my Saturday baking shenanigans, these solo explosions of flour and sugar parties. And sometimes moderation must be in moderation.
Baked for a shorter duration than your typical loaf cake, this was the goal. Goo was the goal, for a slightly wobbly, underdone belly. Tremendous goo (I must stop), complemented by a robust, caramelised edge. Crowned with whatever you want– this time I chose chopped discs of nutty chocolate, a lemon drizzle and more nuts. This part is entirely up to you. This is your emotion on a canvas.
With no eggs in the fridge right after travelling, I made do with a couple of ripe bananas, and it couldn’t have turned out any better. This cake is 100% vegan, which is perfect for anyone who swings that way. No forgetting that all my recipes are veganisable anyway (look at my lovely English)! I find a strange solace in knowing that anyone, anywhere, will be able to whip up any of my creations with ease and grace. I am confident that any fine French patisserie creation can be modified, customised to taste and ethical/dietary preferences. This is your life, after all, and baking need not be outside you. Baking is always with you.
For the pudding cake:
250g plain flour
2 tbsp lebkuchen spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp salt
250ml milk of choice (I used Rude Health’s deliciously rice-sweetened almond milk)
2 small bananas, mashed
100ml oil of choice (I used sunflower)
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g marmalade, preferably orange
150g currants (optional)
For the icing:
135g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2-4 tbsp water (I needed 2.5)
Preheat your oven to 162C and grease your loaf pan. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar into the pan and tip the pan till the sugar is coated all around the edges and sides.
For the cake, mix together the dry ingredients, then add all the wet ingredients (mashed banana, milk, oil, marmalade and vanilla). The batter should be a light orange-brown and very wet. Pour into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes. While it is baking, mix together the icing ingredients and set aside. Once baking time is up, test with a wooden skewer stabbed right in the middle of the loaf; remove the pan if there are moist crumbs clinging to the skewer.
Wait for the cake to cool in the pan for half an hour before removing and drizzling with the icing. Cut and serve on its own, though I have recently discovered the joy of each bite with a little fruit and coconut yoghurt.